A love letter to Australia: We can't all see the flames, but we can feel you burning.


Most of us can’t see the flames, but we can feel you burning. Even in the cities, smoke hangs thickly in the air; the sky is smudged grey or, some days, orange; and the sun glows an eerie, unfamiliar red.

We see footage of fire leaping across roads and rivers, even climbing cliffs, as it advances through bushland.

We read of wildlife, in their billions — species only you can boast — that have perished or been left scorched and screaming.

We learn the names of the 28 souls lost in the inferno and see the photographs of children being pinned with medals as they stand beside their fathers’ coffins, too young to understand that their dad laid down his life to save us.

And we hear people on the nightly news, sobbing beside the crumbled bricks and mortar that once sheltered their family or their livelihood, mourning the precious mementos buried among the rubble.

Watch: Ben Lawson’s ode to Australia during the bushfire crisis.

For some of us far from harm’s way, these streets and shopfronts were the scenes of holiday memories. They flashed up, burning, blackened and barely recognisable, on our screens. ‘Oh no! The caravan park where Dad…’ ‘The bakery where Nan….’ ‘The playground where we….’

For the rest who’ve never been, it’s a sadness in knowing that a community like our own is hurting, grieving.

Or should that be a community that is our own?

Yes, we are 25 million individuals in different suburbs and towns and states, with divisions both real and imagined. But we are also an ‘us’, parts of a whole that make up you. Sometimes it takes crises like these to remind us of that.

That shared identity is how we see — and we show the world — what you’re really made of. Because you are not fire and devastation.


You are people running across still-smoking ground, with an open blanket, ready to scoop up a koala in need of care.

You are the vets and carers working around the clock to gently dab salve onto peeling paws.

You are thousands of volunteers slipping into yellow suits, forgoing sleep, driving toward danger armed with an iron will, a strategy and a humble hose.

You are a group of strangers piling into a food-laden van, on a mission to prepare breakfast for those brave, exhausted men and women.

You are the people on the ground handing out blankets, water and hugs, and you are the people who gave what little they could spare to fund that important work.

That is why hundreds of folks from faraway places are touching down, ready to volunteer their services and expertise fighting the flames or tending to your injured creatures. And why others, who may never be fortunate enough step on your soil, have spared money to help your landscape, animals and people recover.

And recover they will.

In some places, there are signs it’s happening already.

In bushland where the danger has passed, there is new growth springing from ashen soil and charred branches.

There are wineries, shops and small businesses opening their doors again, filling orders coming in from far-away people keen to help rebalance their books.

Initiatives like #spendwiththem, #buyfromthebush and #gowithemptyeskies offer promise that we’ll keep that going, that we won’t forget them as the crisis stretches on, swallowing yet more communities.

We know it’s not over for you. Huge patches of land are still under threat and relief may still be weeks, if not months, away.

It will be hard to watch and, at times, we may have to turn away to preserve ourselves and process the sheer, shitty enormity of everything you’ve been through since September. But we’ll only take a moment.

We owe it to each other to bear witness to this; to see it, to feel it, to read about it, and to learn about it and, most importantly, learn from it.

Because we are not perfect; we know we haven’t done enough to prevent this, and we know that we must do better, for our sake and yours.

You are so loved.

Featured image: Getty.